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T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the vaguely absurd pen-name of Ursula Vernon, an author from North Carolina. In another life, she writes children’s books and weird comics. She has been nominated for the Nebula and the Eisner, and has won the Hugo, Sequoyah, and Ursa Major awards, as well as a half-dozen Junior Library Guild selections. This is the name she uses when writing things for grown-ups. Her work includes multiple fairy-tale retellings and odd little stories about elves and goblins. When she is not writing, she is probably out in the garden, trying to make eye contact with butterflies.
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Clockwork Boys: A company of strangers begins a suicide mission

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

The plot of T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys (2017) is of the “misfit company of strangers on a dangerous mission” type. Their country has been invaded by the so-called Clockwork Boys, nearly unstoppable, 10-foot-tall centaur-like creatures who are laying waste to the countryside. (I like the allusion to the out-of-control gang of boys in A Clockwork Orange.) The Dowager Queen has previously sent soldiers and spies to distant Anuket City, from which the Clockwork Boys regularly emerge, to investigate and try to stop these artificially created creatures, but these prior groups have all disappeared without a trace. So the Dowager has now landed on the idea of sending a group of criminals, perhaps ... Read More

The Wonder Engine: Trying to beat the clocktaurs

The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher

The Wonder Engine (2018) is the second half of a fantasy duology by T. Kingfisher that began with Clockwork Boys, and it's absolutely necessary to read that book first (a few minor spoilers for that book are in this review). Clockwork Boys relates how a company of condemned criminals ― Slate the forger, Brenner the assassin, and Caliban the paladin ― plus one straitlaced, misogynistic scholar named Learned Edmund, are assembled and sent on a mission to the distant Anuket City. This is the place where the so-called Clockwork Boys or, more properly, clocktaurs, originate: immense magical mechanical creatures that smash everything and kill everyone in their paths, and are n... Read More

The Seventh Bride: The miller’s daughter meets Bluebeard

The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher

One of the less well-known folk tales, Bluebeard, the tale of the aristocrat who has married several wives who have ominously disappeared, is dusted off and adapted by T. Kingfisher in The Seventh Bride, a middle grade/young adult fantasy. Note: Kingfisher is a pen name for Ursula Vernon, the Nebula award-winning author of the short story "Jackalope Wives"). Rhea, a fifteen year old miller's daughter, is unhappily and unwillingly engaged to Lord Crevan, a nobleman whom she doesn’t even know. Her parents urged her to accept Lord Crevan’s offer: their family is having trouble making ends meet and Lord Crevan is a friend of the local marquis. And you don’t turn down lords. But Rhea, who keenly feels her l... Read More

Toad Words and Other Stories: Enchanting folk and fairy tale retellings

Toad Words and Other Stories by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon works are adult works, like her wonderful Nebula award-winning short story “Jackalope Wives.” Regardless of the name she uses, I’ve been searching out her fiction ever since reading “Jackalope Wives.” T. Kingfisher writes lovely fairy tale retellings and other folk and fairy tale-flavored fantasies, usually with a twist, sometimes dark and disturbing, always thoughtful.
... Read More

Bryony and Roses: Bryony and the Beast

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

Seventeen year old Bryony and her sisters, Holly and Iris (I’m sensing a horticultural theme here) were the daughters of a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune through risky investments three years earlier. They moved to the remote village of Lostfarthing, where the now-orphaned sisters are barely scraping by. Bryony, a dedicated and enthusiastic gardener, hears about some particularly hardy rutabaga seeds available in a nearby village, and sets off to get some. Unfortunately, on the way back she’s caught in a spring blizzard. She and her pony are nearly frozen when they come across an impossible road that leads to an equally improbable manor house in the forest. In the manor house is magically provided food, a lovely rose in a vase … and, of course, a Beast.

For about the first half of Bryony and Roses (2015), this novel tracks the traditional tale of Beauty a... Read More

Summer in Orcus: A Narnia-type tale spiced with wry humor and insight

Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher

Summer is a young girl whose overly protective, clingy mother tries to protect her from every possible danger, although Summer is allowed to read books about magic and shapechanging and such. (“Summer’s mother believed that books were safe things that kept you inside, which only shows how little she knew about it, because books are one of the least safe things in the world.”) But Summer’s mother is no match for Baba Yaga! One spring day Summer is found by Baba Yaga ― actually, she’s found by Baba Yaga’s chicken-footed house, which manages to convinces Baba Yaga that Summer is the girl they want for some unstated purpose.

When Baba Yaga offers Summer her heart’s desire, Summer really isn’t sure what to answer, though shapeshifting or being able to talk to animals do come to her mind. Instead, though, Baba Yaga looks deep into Summer’s heart and mind, then hands over a talking wea... Read More

SHORTS: Kingfisher, Jones, Ferebee, Swirsky, Lecky

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



“The Dryad’s Shoe” by T. Kingfisher (2014, free at Fantasy magazine, $2.99 at Amazon for magazine issue)

“The Dryad’s Shoe” is a charming Cinderella retelling that features Hannah, a young woman who is far more interested in gardens and bees than fancy gowns and dukes’ sons. When the local duke holds a masquerade ball for his son, an enchanted titmouse informs Hannah that a nearby dryad-tree wants to grant the girl gifts of spectacular dresses so that she might... Read More

SHORTS: Muir, Emrys, Sanderson, Kingfisher

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 




“The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir (2015, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine July/August 2015 issue, Kindle)

Sixteen-year-old Hester Blake is having an unconventional summer: octopodes are in the laundry, deep-sea fish keep showing up in a pond, and salty, oily rain falls from the sky. Normal people are worried about global warming, but the Blakes belong to a long line of seers and scribes, and Hester and her Aunt Mar see these trials as heralds of the “crawling Night Lord’s ascendancy.” When H... Read More

SHORTS: Link, Hand, Marr, Kingfisher, Brennan

Here are a few of the short stories we read this week, all of which are free to read online.



“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2015, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he remin... Read More

SHORTS: Ronald, Vernon, Tregillis, Kowal, Hartley, Deeds

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.



“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (June 2016, free at Clarkesworld or paperback magazine issue)


Dr. Kostia is a keynote speaker and panel participant in an academic conference. Her specialty is extra-terrestrial intelligence ― specifically, the analysis of some radio-like transmissions from an alien race called the Coronals. About thirty years before, Earth scientists received a signal from the Corona Borealis that re... Read More

SHORTS: El-Mohtar, Wilde, Zinos-Amaro & Castro, Fallon, Larson, Kingfisher, Zhang

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 


“Biting Tongues” by Amal El-Mohtar (2011, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue. First printed in The WisCon Chronicles (Vol 5): Writing and Racial Identity)

“Biting Tongues” is a speculative poem which slowly reveals the tenaciousness of the character or characters involved, through a progression from social expectations of their voice and bodies to their true form. Read More

SHORTS: Gregory, Roanhorse, Vernon, Mamatas & Pratt, Clarke, Lowachee

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (2005, free in print and audio at Clarkesworld, November 2017 issue; originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2005 issue)

I love what Daryl Gregory does with drugs. “Second Person, Present Tense” is about the parents of a girl who died after overdosing on a drug called “Zen” or “Zombie.” Unable to cope with their loss, they latch on to a homeless girl (our narrator) who they hope will come live with them and replace their daugh... Read More

SHORTS: Cho, Stueart, Palmer, Kingfisher

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few excellent stories, including two of the recently announced Hugo nominees, that we wanted you to know about.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (2018, free to read online or download at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog). 2019 Hugo award nominee (novelette).

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, by Zen Cho, is a Hugo-nominated novelette about an imugi, a Korean creature who isn’t quite a dragon yet, but desperately wants to ascend to Heaven and join that august celesti... Read More

SHORTS: Kingfisher, Brazee

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are two more reviews of recent Hugo and Nebula award-nominated stories.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” by T. Kingfisher (2018, free at Uncanny magazine, $3.03 Kindle magazine issue). 2019 Hugo award nominee (short story).

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” is a charming little diversion, among a steadily-growing list of charming short works, by T. Kingfisher. This one also happ... Read More

The New Voices of Fantasy: A diverse and worthy collection

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter Beagle

This collection of nineteen fantasy short works, edited by Peter Beagle, is definitely worthwhile if you like speculative short fiction. Many of them left an impact on me, and a few are true standouts. These stories are by relatively new authors in the speculative fiction genre and are all fantasy; otherwise there's no discernable overarching theme.

These stories have almost all been published previously over the last seven years, and several of them are Hugo or Nebula winners or nominees. While a dedicated reader of online short fiction can find many of these short works in free online magazines, it’s convenient to have them gathered together in one volume with other stories that aren’t as readily available.

A brief summary ... Read More